World apparel imports into the United States (based on units) were down 9 percent year-to-date in early June, with the CBI/CAFTA region down 21 percent, Mexico down 16 percent and China down 2 percent. (See Figure 1.)
That was the word from Mary O'Rourke, managing director of Jassin-O'Rourke Group, New York, NY, speaking at the recent annual meeting of the Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA) in Orlando, FL.
Apparel imports into the United States showing growth year to date came from Vietnam, up 20 percent; Bangladesh, up 6 percent; Indonesia, up 3 percent; and India, up 2 percent.
O'Rourke also outlined apparel manufacturing labor costs for both Asia and the Americas.
(See Figures 2 & 3.)
In spite of the shortfalls among Western Hemisphere producers, O'Rourke noted that the Americas still provides manufacturing strengths, such as the ability to turn and replenish quickly. She pointed to such "quiet winner" product categories as organized sports team uniforms, most of which are made in the United States, and comprise an approximate $4 billion business. She also noted that school uniforms, image wear, work wear, public safety uniforms, flame-resistant and protective clothing and military apparel offered good opportunity for the region. She added that the hospitality uniform and retail "identity" uniform business is strong (despite unemployment levels), due to especially high employee turnover and thus the
continual need for new uniforms.
Relative to fiber and fabric innovations, O'Rourke said demand will continue for anti-microbial properties in products ranging from health care to active wear to bedding to rugs and carpets. She also noted that thermal properties, UV protection, flame-resistant protection, eco-fabrics and bio-degradable fabrics would help drive sales.
— Susan Nichols